On a chilly Wednesday in January, just one day after President Obama announced his executive actions on guns from the White House, I traveled to Capitol Hill to sit down with the newly elected (and newly beardless) House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. The youngest person to hold the position in nearly 150 years, he is trying to bring a new energy and attitude to the Republican-led Congress — and hopes to create a new vision for the party.
“We’ve been a pretty good opposition party. We can be a better opposition party, but I don’t think that’s enough. I think we need to be a proposition party, the alternative party. We don’t like the direction the country is headed.”
Throughout the 2016 primary season, many Republican presidential candidates have been echoing Ryan’s sentiment about a need to change the direction of the country. And, although the party’s 2012 vice-presidential pick hasn’t endorsed a candidate, his thoughts were clear about one thing when it comes to the current GOP field: anyone “running for president in the Republican primary would be a far better president than Barack Obama.”
We also spoke at length about the Republican reaction to President Obama’s executive actions on guns and the president’s display of emotion when speaking about the 20 children that were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. in 2012. I asked Speaker Ryan about the president’s tears. Speaker Ryan told me:
“I was affected by it, but I thought we should’ve had the same kind of reaction when James Foley was beheaded, when San Bernardino and Paris occurred. That’s the kind of reaction I had when those occurred.”
In regards to background checks for gun owners, Ryan supports and wants to enforce the “laws that we have on the books,” citing his past vote to increase funding for the National Instant Checks (NIC) System. His main point of concern is that “we should not be thinking about ways of frustrating the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”
The issue of guns is set to be front and center during President Obama’s final State of the Union Address (taking place on Jan. 12th at the invitation of Speaker Ryan). In First Lady Michelle Obama’s box, one seat will be left vacant — a spot dedicated to the victims of gun violence.
Ryan, who delivered the Republican response to the State of the Union in 2011, will be seeing this year’s speech from a very different vantage point — in the Speaker’s seat behind President Obama. The speech, previewed in a YouTube video last week, paints a picture of the president’s optimism for America’s future. However, Ryan sees a very different lasting legacy for the president.
“I think, the legacy he — he’s tried to take over the healthcare sector, he’s worked to taking over the financial services sector — and I think he’s done a lot to expand the powers of the federal government at the expense of our freedom, liberty, prosperity, and security.”
Watch my complete interview with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI).
House Speaker Paul Ryan on Gun Control, Obama and the 2016 candidates
Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., continued his offensive against President Obama's just-announced executive orders on guns…
P.S. Check out “3 Things We Didn’t Know About Speaker Paul Ryan!”